Kobach loses voter suppression case

@DonJohnstonLC : politico: What is Kris Kobach up to? https://t.co/j1iuIWTC9J https://t.co/NvOvMY7QIB

The weasel goes down! The judge also ordered him to take 6 additional continuing education hours on the rules of evidence and procedure:

A federal judge on Monday ruled that Kansas’ proof of citizenship voter registration requirement was a violation of the Constitution as well as the National Voter Registration Act.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson had in previous orders temporarily blocked the requirement, which was championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Robinson on Monday handed down her final decision on the case, which went to trial earlier this year.

Her 100-plus page opinion also knocked Kobach, who defended the law himself in court, for his “history of non-compliance with this Court’s orders,” and imposed “sanctions responsive to Defendant’s repeated and flagrant violations of discovery and disclosure rules.”

Republicans like hacked elections. It’s how they win!

Computer scientist Barbara Simons is very worried about how easy it is to hack our elections:

Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election have reversed Simons’s fortunes. According to the Department of Homeland Security, those efforts included attempts to meddle with the electoral process in 21 states. At the same time, a series of highly publicized hacks — at Sony, Equifax, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — has driven home the reality that very few computerized systems are truly secure.

State officials now return Simons’s calls. Like many of her former adversaries, the League of Women Voters no longer insists on paperless voting. In September, after years of effort by Simons and the nonprofit she helps run, Verified Voting, Virginia abandoned the practice. I asked Simons how it felt to be vindicated. “It sucks,” she said. “I would much rather have been wrong.”

Evidence has yet to emerge that Russia successfully manipulated voting systems in 2016, and most of Russia’s probing appears to have been aimed at databases of registered voters, not the machines that record votes. But Simons believes that the failure to heed her warnings has left states in grave danger, with too many potential weak points to shore up before hackers do succeed in altering an outcome. It is not a theoretical vulnerability, Simons told me. “Our democracy is in peril. We are wide open to attack.”

“It’s not that I don’t like computing or I don’t like computers. I mean, I am a computer scientist,” she said. “Many of the leading opponents of paperless voting machines were, and still are, computer scientists, because we understand the vulnerability of voting equipment in a way most election officials don’t. The problem with cybersecurity is that you have to protect against everything, but your opponent only has to find one vulnerability.”

Why we average polls

September 19, 2016 - Ames, IA.

Here’s the NYT pollster, who gave the same set of data to four different pollsters. Guess what happened?

Well, well, well. Look at that. A net five-point difference between the five measures, including our own, even though all are based on identical data. Remember: There are no sampling differences in this exercise. Everyone is coming up with a number based on the same interviews.

Their answers shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication of what they would have found if they had conducted their own survey. They all would have designed the survey at least a little differently – some almost entirely differently.

But their answers illustrate just a few of the different ways that pollsters can handle the same data – and how those choices can affect the result.

So what’s going on? The pollsters made different decisions in adjusting the sample and identifying likely voters. The result was four different electorates, and four different results.

I remember trying to explain polling variables to C&L readers, and got raked over the coals by people calling me a shill because I said polls showed Hillary winning.

If you’re not paranoid

Tin Foil Hat

You’re crazy.

Adultery, divorce. I saw a pattern here, one that I found especially unwelcome because at the time I was recently engaged. Evidently, some callous algorithm was betting against my pending marriage and offering me an early exit. Had merely typing seduction into a search engine marked me as a rascal? Or was the formula more sophisticated? Could it be that my online choices in recent weeks—the travel guide to Berlin that I’d perused, the Porsche convertible I’d priced, the old girlfriend to whom I’d sent a virtual birthday card—indicated longings and frustrations that I was too deep in denial to acknowledge? When I later read that Facebook, through clever computerized detective work, could tell when two of its users were falling in love, I wondered whether Google might have similar powers. It struck me that the search engine might know more about my unconscious than I do—a possibility that would put it in a position not only to predict my behavior, but to manipulate it. Lose your privacy, lose your free will—a chilling thought.

Around the same time, I looked into changing my car-insurance policy. I learned that Progressive offered discounts to some drivers who agreed to fit their cars with a tracking device called Snapshot. That people ever took this deal astonished me. Time alone in my car, unobserved and unmolested, was sacred to me, an act of self-communion, and spoiling it for money felt heretical. I shared this opinion with a friend. “I don’t quite see the problem,” he replied. “Is there something you do in your car that you’re not proud of? Frankly, you sound a little paranoid.”

Twitter stops backing up political tweets

Twitter_logo

A tweet is no longer forever — at least, if you’re a politician!

Herrman was reacting to an announcement from Twitter that it was facilitating the search of its entire archive of tweets, something it pitched as being critical for allowing “brands to most effectively analyze Twitter data.” Toxic tweets will be easier to find.

That was on August 11. On August 21, Twitter did something different: It shut off access to its application program interface, or API, for a tool that archived politicians’ tweets. It had previously stopped access to the API for Politwoops, a site that archived American politicians’ tweets. Now, projects gathering tweets from politicians in 30 countries and the European parliament are similarly disconnected.

Twitter defended the Politwoops move by saying that tweeting would be “nerve-wracking – terrifying, even” if you couldn’t delete your old tweets. “[D]eleting a tweet is an expression of the user’s voice,” it continued.

“What elected politicians publicly say is a matter of public record,” Arjen El Fassed, director of the group that operated those systems wrote in a statement. “Even when tweets are deleted, it’s part of parliamentary history. … What politicians say in public should be available to anyone. This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice.” For politicians, there are other mortal risks.

I made a similar point after Politwoops closed. When then-New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a photo and deleted it, that’s substantially different than when you tweet a picture and delete it. When politicians try to whitewash their records by deleting past public positions, that’s different, too. Politwoops used the power of programming to ensure that such things weren’t missed.

But this latest move is more alarming. Among the 30 countries that will no longer have the benefit of an automated system for backing up tweets are countries like Turkey and Egypt, countries without particularly open governments and which could benefit from more political accountability. It also includes countries like the U.K. and Australia where democracy has a firm grip but in which accountability is no less important.

Twitter’s argument is fairly simple. If you delete a tweet, it should be gone. If you don’t delete it, it should be able to be surfaced. That makes sense for a company trying to sell a service to advertisers and cater to a user base of consumers. Respects privacy, but takes advantage of its increasingly substantial data pool to allow deep analysis.

But Twitter isn’t just a company that matches consumers and advertisers. It’s an integral part of real-time global communications, including communications from elected officials. The failure to set a different standard for different types of users — especially as candidates increasingly use Twitter as part of their political campaigns — is a disservice to the community that uses it. This is not a court of law in which a comment can be stricken from the record. It’s a public square with a hot mic.

Evading the NSA

NSA-photo-by-Trevor-Paglen

Did the feds think ignoring the laws could go on indefinitely, without anyone pushing back?

WASHINGTON — Devoted customers of Apple products these days worry about whether the new iPhone 6 will bend in their jean pockets. The National Security Agency and the nation’s law enforcement agencies have a different concern: that the smartphone is the first of a post-Snowden generation of equipment that will disrupt their investigative abilities.

The phone encrypts emails, photos and contacts based on a complex mathematical algorithm that uses a code created by, and unique to, the phone’s user — and that Apple says it will not possess.

The result, the company is essentially saying, is that if Apple is sent a court order demanding that the contents of an iPhone 6 be provided to intelligence agencies or law enforcement, it will turn over gibberish, along with a note saying that to decode the phone’s emails, contacts and photos, investigators will have to break the code or get the code from the phone’s owner.

Breaking the code, according to an Apple technical guide, could take “more than 5 1/2 years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.” (Computer security experts question that figure, because Apple does not fully realize how quickly the N.S.A. supercomputers can crack codes.)

Already the new phone has led to an eruption from the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey. At a news conference on Thursday devoted largely to combating terror threats from the Islamic State, Mr. Comey said, “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.”

Israel’s NSA scandal

So that’s how it happened. The Israelis have been blackmailing gay Palestinians to force them to be informants (always the hallmark of a democratic nation, I say!):

WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.
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